Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. – movie review

Peggy Ahwesh

LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER Simon West, USA, 2001

She has hundreds of fan sites on the Web. For girls, she’s a role model of empowerment as the female hero with big guns. For boys, she carries a strong erotic charge as the female hero with big guns. She is Lara Croft, the busty female adventurer of Tomb Raider, originally released as a video game in 1996. Game players grow very fond of Lara as they spend time with her exploring temples, shooting bad guys, solving puzzles, and avoiding toxic pools, boulders, deadly traps, etc. Tomb Raider is a third-person game in which the player can hide behind Lara as she advances toward trouble (though she’s never a vulnerable target). She is your shield, able and willing to protect you and bear the brunt of each new attack. She is your eyes as you operate the game’s “look around” function to orient yourself in a landscape or position yourself to jump off a cliff. A certain intimacy develops. You put her through her paces, practicing the moves over and over without her ever getting impatient. You stare at her body with impunity — mainly her butt — and you get to kill her off in any number of sadistic and pleasurable ways.

With no personal ties or family obligations, Lara is a single-minded thrill-seeker. Curiously, she’s sexy-looking but asexual — in fact, she’s a bit prudish. It’s up to the player to supply the erotic engine. She’s a loner, and she’s certainly not looking for love or commitment. As a stand-in for the player, she holds out the promise of transcendent wish-fulfillment. But the endlessly fascinating fact of our Lara is that she is a composite of cones and cylinders, a 3-D animation, and, for all the personality and backstory with which the franchise has endowed her, she remains a forever-accommodating and private fantasy ideal facilitated by very clever computer programmers.

Nothing will bring you crashing back to the banality of normal spatial perspective, mortal bodies, and linear movie-time faster than Simon West’s live-action movie spin-off, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, in which Lara has been made flesh by Angelina Jolie. Regardless of the special effects and adrenalized action, one keeps coming back to the marvelous, impossible female body of Lara Croft. Her breasts are the simplest and most essential special effect in the film. A carryover from the game, and admittedly tailored for the T&A factor, they express an excessive femininity, while her artificiality offers a curious sense of liberation from the conventional constraints of womanhood. We gaze admiringly at her special attributes of unconstrained gender as she guides us through our adventures into dangerous and unknown territory.

Borrowing heavily from the search-quest genre of Indiana Jones, the story is as follows: Lara Croft, a wealthy, physically buff, and orphaned British aristocrat, lives for high adventure, scouring the globe for lost tombs and forgotten treasures. Guided by the prophecies of her dead father, she must find the fragments of an ancient artifact before the Illuminati, an evil secret society, get their hands on them and use them to harness the all-encompassing power soon to be unleashed by an impending planetary alignment. The storyline is suitably shallow, what with the assigning of obligatory emotional motivations and dilemmas, and the standard-issue Western imperialistic overtones, but at least the giant six-armed Buddha and the stone monkey warriors that come alive and attack the humans in the Cambodian episode are spectacular.

I never thought of Lara as a daddy’s girl, but in the film she is domesticated by the haunting memory of her dead father (played by Jolie’s father Jon Voight). The daddy card gets played endlessly in a movie that could have allowed her to be a ruthless and driven post-female icon. Why is it that men always quest for ultimate power or the possibility of becoming God while women just want Emotional Resolution with their fathers?

COPYRIGHT 2001 Film Society of Lincoln Center

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group